A spell that causes partial memory loss

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Evidence suggests that Gilbert Norrell was able to perform a spell that causes partial memory loss. In January, 1807, John Segundus and Mr Honeyfoot paid a visit to Hurtfew Abbey, Norrell's residence. There Norrell gave them a tour of his library, where they met Norrell's servant John Childermass and examined many of the texts in the collection [1].

However, later that month, when relating the events to the Learned Society of York Magicians, they were unable to recall any of the contents or titles of the books in the library [2]. Furthermore, in February when Segundus met again with Childermass, he felt as if he knew him, that Childermass was someone he had met before, but he could not recall where. Childermass appeared fleetingly both vexed and amused when Mr Segundus suggested they might have met already - "Something shifted in Childermass's dark face, but it was gone in a moment and whether it had been a frown or laughter it was impossible to say"[2]. He does not remind Mr Segundus however of where they have met, and contents himself with suggesting places it is likely they might have met - both of which suggest that he is aware of Norrell's spell and its consequences. And when Mr Segundus struggles to recall their encounter - "Oh! I shall have it in a moment!" - "Childermass raised an eyebrow as if to say he very much doubted it.[2]"

The precise nature of the spell is unknown. It could have been a permanent enchantment, similar to the one Norrell put in place to make the library nearly impossible to find: or it could have been cast by Norrell on the two other magicians on that specific occasion. Finally, it is possible that the spell does not exist at all, and the strange occurrence can be explained purely by Mr Segundus's and Mr Honeyfoot's forgetfulness - though this is perhaps not so very likely. Its effects at any rate are well-described by Mr Segundus: "I am not ill, but this last week I have felt very heavy and stupid. Mrs Pleasance has given me arrowroot and hot concoctions of liquorice root, but they have not helped - which does not surprize me for I think the confusion is in my head."[2] (It is not clear what Mrs Pleasance was hoping to achieve by her physic, for the effect of arrowroot is rather to bind the digestion whereas the effect of liquorice is the reverse: perhaps she was merely baffled as to the cause of the malaise.)

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